Rishi Sunak warns the UK could take 100,000 asylum seekers a year from the EU under Keir Starmer after the Labour leader says he would consider striking a deal on migrants
- Sir Keir refused to say how many asylum seekers he would be willing to accept
- Suella Braverman accused Sir Keir of turning the UK into a ‘dumping ground’
The Labour leader confirmed he was willing to discuss taking an annual quota in return for a returns agreement that would allow Britain to send back some Channel migrants.
But during a round of interviews to promote his plan, Sir Keir refused to say how many asylum seekers he would be willing to accept as part of a ‘burden sharing’ deal with Brussels, saying it would be a matter for negotiation.
Government sources said the final figure could top 100,000 a year if calculated on a per capita basis.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Sir Keir of turning the UK into a ‘dumping ground’ for the EU’s migrants. ‘He’ll let Brussels decide who comes to the UK,’ she said.
Still coy over triple lock
Sir Keir Starmer yesterday refused to commit Labour to keeping the pensions triple lock.
The Labour leader said there would be a ‘fair and decent’ pension if he won power, but he would not say whether the flagship measure to protect the state pension would be kept.
His comments will fuel fears about the future of the triple lock, after Rishi Sunak also refused to commit to keeping it in the next Conservative manifesto. The triple lock guarantees that the state pension will rise in line with inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest.
It was introduced by the coalition government in 2010 following derisory increases of as little as 75p a week under the last Labour government.
But Treasury officials are concerned about the mounting cost of the scheme.
‘He’ll agree to make Britain the dumping ground for many of the millions of illegal migrants that Europe doesn’t want. And none of this will stop the boats.’
Mr Sunak also condemned the idea, which is a central part of Labour’s plan to tackle illegal migration.
Speaking to reporters during a visit in Devon, the Prime Minister said Sir Keir’s claim to want to tackle the small boats crisis was not credible, given that he had ordered Labour MPs to vote against every attempt to tighten border controls.
He added: ‘His plans seem to amount to saying we might one day accept 100,000 EU migrants every year. That doesn’t seem like a credible plan to me to stop the boats.’
Sir Keir insisted that closer co-operation with Brussels on the small boats crisis would mean ‘taking back control of a situation the Government has totally lost control of’.
He added: ‘It ought to be the Government who decides who comes here but it is the gangs.’
He pledged to smash the ‘vile’ people smuggling cartels and said it was nonsense to suggest Labour would let in 100,000 asylum seekers a year.
‘There is a difference between the burden that is there as an EU member and the arrangements we would make as a third country,’ he said. Sir Keir denied his plans were a first step towards reversing Brexit, saying there was ‘no case for going back in the EU’.
But he added: ‘If you are going to smash the gangs then you have to operate where they are operating.’
Former Labour home secretary Lord Blunkett warned it would not be easy to sell his party’s plans to the electorate.
He told the BBC’s World at One show: ‘It is a complicated sell. It has always been complicated message because immigration is like lighting a fire.’
Sir Keir held talks at Europol yesterday to underline his message that Labour would focus on international law enforcement to tackle the people smugglers.
He confirmed that Labour would dismantle the Government’s flagship scheme to send Channel migrants to Rwanda, describing it as ‘inhumane’.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the Government and law enforcement agencies were already making strenuous efforts to break up the gangs and it was ‘disingenuous’ to suggest otherwise.
But attention focused on Labour’s plans for a new returns agreement – and the price Sir Keir might be happy to pay to secure one. He said he was willing to open negotiations about taking part in an EU ‘burden sharing’ system designed to relocate migrants who land in Greece, Italy, and other Mediterranean countries.
Labour sources said the idea was at an early stage and declined to say how many could be involved.
As part of its plans, Labour says it would work to reach agreement to share real-time intelligence with the EU similar to the Schengen Information System II, a database of terror suspects and immigration offenders which the UK had automatic access to before Brexit.
The party has also vowed to strengthen powers to restrict the movement of people smugglers by making it quicker and easier to obtain civil orders, known as serious crime prevention orders.